Red deer rut: a true autumn wildlife spectacle!

Spotting wildlife on the Tour du Mont Blanc or Chamonix Zermatt Haute route is always an exciting moment. Whether it’s a majestic ibex on a mountain cliff, a fluffy marmot bathing in the sun or a golden eagle soaring through the sky, a wildlife sighting always adds something magical to your hike.

And during late September, early October, something very special happens.

Lots of testosterone

At this time of year, Red deer (Cervus elaphus) are in rut and dominant males are battling each other for the right to hold a harem of hinds. And with all that testosterone rushing through their bodies the males are incredibly noisy. When the evening falls, loud roaring noises resonate through the mountain forests, which makes the red deer rut one of the most exciting autumn wildlife spectacles in the Alps.

red deer rut
A red deer emerges from the forest to begin his majestic roar. Photo by Simone V Velzen.

Roar like a lion

That’s why this is my favourite time of the year to go for an evening stroll, wandering through the mountain forests in the Chamonix valley. Especially near Buet (between the little villages of Vallorcine and Argentière) there are lots of red deer around. The best time to start this evening adventure is before the sun sets behind a mountain to find a spot to sit down. Soon incredible sounds will rise up from the forest all around you. The impressive roaring calls of male red deer resonate in the cold autumn air and will probably remind you of the roars of African lions.


And if you’re sitting next to a clearing in the forest you might be lucky enough to see some fearsome action when red deer males emerge from the trees, leaving the protection of the forest behind, showing off their strength and antlers. Perhaps you’ll even get to see them battling each other while smashing their antlers together, followed by an impressive triumphal roar produced by the winning male.

Keep safe!

But be careful, you wouldn’t want to get involved in one of these battles. So keep a safe distance!

Simone van Velzen

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